Calm in uptown Charlotte Thursday after second night of violent police protests; curfew being considered
The streets of uptown Charlotte were calm early Thursday following a second night of protests that turned violent in the wake of Tuesday’s fatal police shooting of a black man.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told Good Morning America Thursday that “the city is talking about a curfew.”
Roberts’ office will discuss a possible curfew with city police and the National Guard Thursday, but as of yet, no curfew has been planned for Thursday night, city spokeswoman Ashley Simmons said.
“We want people to know we are open for business today,” Roberts said. “We are hoping for a peaceful day. We are preparing for this evening.”
She also said President Barack Obama called to say his thoughts are with the city, and offered whatever federal resources the city needed.
City and police officials are planning another update at a 10:30 a.m. Thursday news conference.
Late Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for Charlotte and deployed the National Guard and State Highway Patrol troopers to assist local police.
The National Guard began to arrive at the National Guard Armory near the airport before 7 a.m., and some guard vehicles were seen rolling out about 8 a.m.
Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was fatally shot by police Tuesday afternoon in the University area. The officer who shot him, Brentley Vinson, 26, is also black. Police said he held a handgun as he got out of a car in an apartment complex but others claimed he was reading a book. Police said they found a gun but no book at the scene.
On Wednesday, authorities said they were reviewing video from body and dashboard cameras from the deadly confrontation in University City. Despite demands by some activists for that footage to be publicly released, police said they would not do so during an active investigation.
The incident exploded on social media and drew national attention in the wake of other police shootings of black men that fueled protests around the country.
Meanwhile, U.S. Justice Department spokesman David Jacobs has confirmed to McClatchy that the department’s Community Relations Service will be sending staffers to Charlotte. The service is a division within Justice that responds to communities in crisis
By daybreak Thursday, uptown was mostly quiet, with no protesters visible.
Reporters, and state troopers in tactical gear, centered around the EpiCentre, the entertainment complex at College and Trade streets that faced looting and sustained significant damage. It was expected to be closed for the day. Businesses damaged there included Sundries EpiCentre, CVS, Enso and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.
No damage estimates from the city were immediately available.
Workers from uptown buildings and disaster recovery outfits were out Thursday morning replacing windows and cleaning up damage from the protests.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame was among the other sites hit by vandals. On Thursday morning, a street sign hung from the front window of the hall’s news center, after vandals tried prying out the front window. Adjacent restaurants and hotels were also damaged, with doors and windows broken out.
An official with the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said they were working to assess damage to the Hall of Fame building, and adjacent convention center, and would release a statement soon.
Vandals also hit the headquarters of the region’s United Way, across from the Hall of Fame. The United Way building had its lobby windows smashed out. It was unclear early Thursday if looters entered the building.
Michael Smith, the head of Charlotte Center City Partners, urged businesses to remain open Thursday, “standing together as one Charlotte in our central business district.”
But given the “ongoing civil unrest,” Bank of America told its employees not to report to their uptown offices on Thursday. Wells Fargo also told all non-essential employees to work from home.
A Duke Energy spokesman said all non-essential personnel who work in uptown should stay home for the day.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is operating on a normal schedule Thursday, as is Mecklenburg County government. Also, CATS said it has restored services to all lines.
Carolina Panthers officials will meet Thursday morning to discuss security measures for Sunday’s game against Minnesota, a team spokesman said.
Moving or postponing the game is currently not on the table. But the team is expected to provide an update at some point Thursday morning.
Wednesday night protests
One person was shot at the Wednesday night protest and was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, Medic said. The city initially reported that he died, but later retracted that, saying he was on life-support.
City leaders appealed for calm and promised a thorough investigation of the shooting that triggered hours of violent protest and shut down Interstate 85 on Tuesday.
But Wednesday night, police needed to use tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who blocked the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets in the heart of uptown, then occupied the EpiCentre.
The shooting was “civilian on civilian,” the city tweeted. “@CMPD did not fire shot.”
The Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice disputed a report that it had questioned the city’s account by saying several of its members were just 10 feet from the victim when he was shot. Thursday morning, the group said on Facebook it had not issued any such statement.
“I saw the man go down on the pavement,” Minister Steve Knight of Missiongathering Christian Church in Charlotte said in a statement from the coalition. “It was an ambush. The victim was shot while he stood between two ministers, and we believe he was shot by police. We would like to see surveillance video from the surrounding area that may have captured the shooting to determine who was responsible for the shooting.”
Moments earlier, police fired tear gas at protesters at the entrance to the Omni Hotel in uptown Charlotte. Loud booms sounded, and police said explosives had been used.
“Your life is in danger, you need to move!” police in riot gear yelled.
Four Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers suffered non-life threatening injuries during Wednesday’s protests, the department tweeted at 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
At 9:45 p.m., police fired rubber bullets at the crowd.
At the request of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, the State Highway Patrol is sending in troopers to assist CMPD, McCrory said late Wednesday.
“The state has many additional assets nearby to assist,” McCrory said. “Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated.”
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said he spoke to Mayor Roberts and offered her the full assistance of the N.C. Department of Justice.
Protests had remained peaceful in uptown on Wednesday, after the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. But the scene turned chaotic after 8:30 p.m., when protesters went from Marshall Park to the EpiCentre dining and entertainment complex and the Omni on Trade Street.
Many businesses in the EpiCentre closed hours earlier in anticipation of the protests. Police also blocked off streets as the situation deteriorated outside the Omni. The Charlotte Hornets NBA team store, a CVS and the EpiCentre Sundries were later looted.
Several hundred protesters had gathered at the Omni before tear gas began scattering the crowd. Protesters blocked Trade and Tryon streets at about 8 p.m. and then moved to the EpiCentre.
Hours earlier, a group of two dozen protesters stood silently in front of the Bank of America Tower at the same intersection. They held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Us.”
Protesters then gathered outside Charlotte-Mecklenburg police headquarters before gathering at Marshall Park for a 7 p.m. rally.
Scott’s wife, meanwhile, issued a statement calling for protests to remain peaceful. Do not damage property, she urged.
The protest at Marshall Park was peaceful at 7:30 p.m. Speakers using a bullhorn questioned why police shot Scott. Protesters said that even if Scott had a gun, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said, North Carolina is an open carry state where it is legal to have a firearm.
The protesters also criticized police for their response Tuesday night when officers used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds on Old Concord Road near where Scott was fatally shot.
“You were unprepared,” one protester yelled, addressing police. “You escalated it. … You came to us with billy clubs.”
Master Allah of Charlotte said, “If you read (my sign), it says if we were really free, we wouldn’t be dealing with this. What it means is, in the history of America, we have never been seen as free. We wasn’t brought to this country to be equal, and now we’re at a point to where we’re being destroyed.
“I think with the power of media – Facebook, Twitter, all the social media – now it’s something that’s being seen on the daily. It can’t be denied. We gotta talk about it because we’ve got a real problem.”
After the violent protests at the EpiCentre, protesters made their way on to Interstate 277, where they temporarily blocked traffic.
At least four journalists were among those injured in the protests. WLTX in Columbia reported on Twitter that its chief photographer and a reporter were attacked. They were taken to Novant Health Presbyterian and are expected to be OK.
A photographer and reporter from WCNC also were tackled and taken to the hospital. WCCB reported that a protester tried to throw a still photographer into a fire in uptown.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, pockets of the city were on edge, with some uptown businesses apparently sending workers home early over uncertainty about further protests. The Charlotte Chamber also urged businesses in uptown and University City to “remove or chain down all tables, chairs, signs or planters.”
At the afternoon silent protest at the Bank of America Tower, Andrew Monroe said the gathering was organized informally by a group of black professionals. “What we want to do is show we’re not dangerous,” he said. “We want to show the world it’s not thugs out here.”
Monroe said black people deserve to be safe in the streets and don’t feel the way in the spate of recent police shootings.
Across town at UNC Charlotte, students gathered at the Student Union and laid down in protest.
The events that led to the current turmoil began around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police were conducting a search for someone who had an outstanding warrant at The Village at College Downs complex on Old Concord Road, Putney said.
Scott was not the person they were looking for, but police saw him in his car in the apartment complex.
They saw Scott get out of the car, then get back in, Putney said. They saw he had a handgun, approached the car and ordered him to drop the weapon.
Despite the commands, he got out of the car with the gun as officers continued to tell him to drop the weapon, Putney said.
Within seconds Scott was shot. Authorities said Scott posed an imminent threat of danger.
Police do not yet know definitively if Scott had raised his weapon, Putney said. But he said that a person’s gestures, aggressive behavior and other factors can also be interpreted as “imminent threats” under North Carolina law.
Police did not disclose how many times Scott was shot.
A woman who identified herself as Scott’s daughter said on a live-streamed video that Scott was unarmed, reading a book in his car and waiting for the school bus to drop off his son. The video, viewed more than half a million times, elevated the incident to a national stage within hours.
Putney said no book was found at the scene. He said he did not know if the gun found near Scott was loaded.
Some civil rights activists and neighbors questioned the police account of the shooting Wednesday, saying Scott was disabled and was waiting for his son’s school bus. Activists demanded answers from police and called on protesters to be peaceful.
The chief said he wanted to dispel false rumors and get as many facts out to the public as he could in the midst of the ongoing investigations.
Putney said officers began to encounter protesters at around 7 p.m. Tuesday. About one hour later, the crowd transformed into “more aggressive agitators who began breaking the law,” Putney said.
Shortly before 11 p.m., police donned gas masks. Soon, clouds of tear gas bloomed in front of their lines. Protesters damaged at least two CMPD vehicles. Sixteen officers had minor injuries that night.
Vinson joined the department’s police academy in July 2014 and was assigned to the Metro Division that December. He faced no disciplinary actions, according to personnel records released by CMPD.